10 Money-saving travel tips for seniors by Tom Blake
1. To get the best price
To get the best price on accommodations, rental cars and cruises (see notes below about cruises) plan months ahead. You especially need to do that if you are going to redeem air miles because the airlines are cutting back on the number of flights and the number of seats made available for frequent flyer programs.
2. Rental Car
The longer you wait, the higher the cost of renting a car gets. And if possible, avoid picking up the rental car at the airport. They charge a premium at airport locations. In Athens, we stayed in Marathon Beach, about an hour away from Athens. We rented a car in Marathon Beach there from www.bestcarrental.gr; the cost per day was half of what the major companies charged at the airport and downtown Athens locations. And, they will pick you up at the airport for a small fee.
Unlike rental cars, the best deals on cruises can often be found by waiting until the last minute. The cruise lines need to fill up those ships and they make last-minute bargain deals. The downside, of course, is you don’t have time to plan. But, if you can leave on short notice, check the offerings from the cruise lines. Cruises are very inexpensive these days in the down economy.
While searching online for hotels in Rome this year (2010), we found average hotels costing about $250 to $300 per night. Yikes, for a six-night stay, the cost would be about $2000.00. Instead, we checked out www.VRBO.com, a website that lists vacation rentals all over the world. We found wonderful places to stay in Rome, Athens and Istanbul for about 1/3 of the price. Check them out.
5. Ask for the best deal
To get the best price for any and all of these services, simply ask for their best price. Don’t be afraid to say, “That’s beyond what I can spend,” and then thank them and start to terminate the call. You will be surprised how often they will find a better deal for you.
6. Investigate local transportation
Instead of always renting a car or taking a taxi, look into local transportation. Buses to and from the airports. City buses and metros (underground transportation) are incredible in most cities in Europe. Plus, you will learn more about the people by sitting and traveling among them. Look for the three-day and week-long passes, they can save you a bundle and give you unlimited on and off access.
7. Beware of pickpockets at all times
Of course, one of the downsides of using public transportation is often those places are where pickpockets hang out. You’ve just got to be travel savvy everywhere you go. Wear a money belt under your clothes to keep a little extra money and important documents like Passports and a credit card. Never carry a wallet in a back pocket and only carry spending money for one day in a front pocket. All pockets are fair game for pickpockets these days.
Pickpockets will come at you anywhere and everywhere. They work in gangs often where someone will hand you an infant while the rest of the gang will get your valuables.
Leave all of your good jewelry and watches at home. The less you have on you the better.
Even purses slung over shoulders are targets. Pickpockets can slice a leather strap with a razor blade and be gone in seconds.
To read about how I learned my lesson about being taken, go to the article about Istanbul on this site: http://www.travelafter55.com/istanbul_turkey.html.
8. Converting Money
Before leaving on your trip, check several sources for the best money rate. American Express is always a good place to start. Also, there are money change booths at your airport that you can contact by telephone in advance. In our most recent trip, the best exchange rate on Euros was from our own local bank. They wanted the business and were very aggressive on the price of currency.
9. Don’t be afraid to barter
When shopping on the street, and in tourist shops, don’t be afraid to barter. In some high-end shops, the list price is usually the firm price. But, in most other places, they expect you to barter and ask for a lower price. In Istanbul, it is expected that they will lower their prices at least three times in places like the Grand Bazaar.
I am not advising that you become an ugly American by being rude, just don’t be suckered into the list price. The best strategy is to walk away. Tell them, “That is beyond my budget.”
10. Know the price before buying
Let’s say you see a gelato stand in Italy. The merchant is dressed in a fancy native outfit as sort of a come on. Be sure you know the price of the gelato (or sandwich or whatever you are getting) before ordering one. In Turkey, my partner ordered a gelato from a guy dressed in an historical outfit and the cost was $7.00, about three bucks more than a guy a few feet away on a side street.